I’m not in the business of blaming officials for games. Players, ultimately, decide games with their play through the entire course of a game, and if they do not play well enough to make up for a couple of botched calls in the game, then they simply did not play well enough to win.
That doesn’t mean that it sucks any less when you lose a game on a power play that was set up by a bogus penalty.
Vancouver, who was the beneficiary of two phantom penalties during the course of the game that both led to goals, stormed into Smashville, silenced the crowd for most of the game, and stole control of the series (for now) with a 3-2 OT win to give them a 2-1 lead in the series.
Like I stated before, I do not like to make it seem as though I am saying that the only reason the Canucks won the game was due to penalties, because that is simply not true—they played an exceptional game, and took advantage of the few openings on Pekka Rinne that were available.
The game started off slow for Smashville, as Vancouver came out of the gates aggressive and looking to overpower the Preds. This worked for much of the first period, until they gave up a short-handed goal to David Legwand after he stole the puck in their zone and kicked it out to Nick Spaling, who set up Ryan Suter in the corner with a perfect opening to dump it off to Legwand right in front of the net. Nashville 1, Vancouver 0. The crowd was eating it up.
Things soon settled down and returned to what has been the norm for the series: a tough, defensive battle between two very physical teams. That is until Roberta (just kidding, just kidding—Roberto) Luongo announced to the world that he loves playing make-believe. He likes to pretend that he gets hit, and take a dive for dramatic effect. In essence, one could call him a diva. But who can blame him? After having to be “that other goalie” in Pekka Rinne’s spectacular game two performance, he had to let his frustration out somehow. It would have been nice if it were something hockey related, however, and not something normally relegated to Broadway show tunes.
At the 19:42 mark in the first period, Jerred Smithson was called for holding his stick and being on the ice. That usually isn’t a penalty, as it is a fundamental part of the game of hockey, but when Luongo is playing make-believe and pretends like something hit him (when, in fact, video replay during the game confirmed that nothing actually touched him at all) and falls down on the ice…then the officials say that breathing and standing still is a penalty. Weird.
Ironically, during the game, I tweeted “Reason number 239 that the NHL playoffs are better than NBA playoffs: NHL refs aren't great...but NBA refs are fucking garbage. What a joke,” because I was watching a little bit of the Memphis/OKC basketball game during commercial breaks, and the officiating in that game was just horrid. Almost as bad as the Nashville/Vancouver game, as it turns out. Oops. My bad. I guess I should recant that statement.
So anyway, the Preds were able to kill the penalty for the short time remaining in the first, but that penalty carried over to the second period and Ryan Kesler (more from him later) scored a goal with Rinne caught on the side of the net (this, also, would make another appearance in the game).
The bad call did eventually lead to a Vancouver goal. However, the Preds still should have killed it. There are no excuses in hockey, only winners and losers. Tie game.
Fun stat: at this point in the game, both Nashville and Vancouver were one-for-two on Vancouver power plays, with Nashville scoring short-handed once and with Vancouver capitalizing on the second.
That was all of the scoring in the second period, although Nashville had some opportunities with power plays that they (as they have every game this series) pissed away. Vancouver is excellent at penalty killing, and Nashville has been sloppy in their power play execution. Not a very good blend for a Preds fan. It’s ugly.
Vancouver’s Christopher Higgins drew first blood in the third period, scoring at the 3:03 mark on yet another play where Rinne got caught on the side of the net. When he was in solid position, Rinne was nearly unstoppable, but the Canucks did an awesome (well, it didn’t feel awesome for me) job of moving him with their passing and shot selection, and firing away when he wasn’t in great position. This isn’t to say that he had no saves when he was out of position; he’s Pekka Rinne—he’s in the business of making crazy saves.
In the first two games of the series it felt like Vancouver, who had a one goal lead in the third period of both games, started to play a little bit of “let’s not lose this game” instead of “let’s finish this game off and get the win.” In game one it didn’t matter, because the every Predators player whose name doesn’t start with an “R” and end with and “inne” got lost on the way to the arena—and thus there was no threat of scoring unless Rinne literally became the “do-it-all goalie.” In game two, it obviously came back to bite them. In game three? Yep. They gave up the game-tying goal to Joel Ward at the 13:18 mark in the third.
Nashville 2, Vancouver 2. Both teams got a few decent shots in before regulation ended, but this game was ultimately destined to overtime, much like game two (and like more games in this series will probably end up).
The overtime period started out well, with a great atmosphere from the crowd and both teams going it at it just as hard as they did in the two overtime periods in game two. Playoff overtime hockey is sort of like what I would imagine doing cocaine for the first time would be like. Almost nothing could ruin it.
That’s right…almost…nothing. Almost.
Sucks that the Preds lost, but at least this picture still makes me smile.
Ryan Kesler effectively ripped the hearts out of every fan in Smashville and sat there and ate it right in front of them. The referees, meanwhile, relaxed, made themselves nice and comfy, and took another big dump right out on the ice. Kesler grabbed Shea Weber’s stick—that’s right, grabbed the frickin thing—and would not let go, pinning it to his body and not allowing Weber to get it back. The gullable, border-line retarded officiating crew took the bait and called Weber for hooking. Good grief.
Kesler then, as if he hadn’t done enough to piss off the city of Smashville, scored the winning goal. Great shot, really good player, great team…but damn that sucks. The penalty unquestionably should not have been called, and ultimately put Vancouver in a position to take the lead in the series.
Making excuses, however, just means that your team couldn’t find a way to win. Next time the Preds will have to play well enough to withstand a team that is probably the best all-around in the NHL, as well as shitty officiating. Oh well, that’s just hockey. Vancouver has to do the same thing, because they very well could be the victim of horrid “officiating” next time.
Like I said, there are no excuses in hockey, only winners and losers. To quote the greatest movie of all time, “get busy living, or get busy dying.” If the Preds don’t get busy living in game three, the Canucks will see to it that they get busy dying.